Salt – Nitrates and Nitrites

No Added Nitrates or Nitrites

From July 2016 Native Breeds will be eliminating the use of manufactured curing salts containing Nitrates and Nitrites, in many of our products.

Our salami, and hot smoked sausages, will be made without the use of added nitrates or nitrites. For our fermented meats, smoked brisket and hot smoked belly bacon we will use an organically recognised nitrite salt that contains nitrites at  very low levels. We will not be using any other form of plant nitrate extracts such as celery, spinach or beetroot.

What are Nitrates and Nitrites?

They are chemicals present in many foods. They can occur naturally or are introduced chemically. Meat and vegetables can contain naturally occurring nitrates, some may disperse through oxidisation and reduce on cooking but many foods will contain small amounts of nitrates. Nitrates help to arrest bad bacteria such as botulism. They can be very useful in small doses (contained in some curing salts) to give charcuterie added protection against pathogenic bacteria. However, there are many other ways to ensure products are safe, and in many cases there is not a need to add nitrates at all. Charcuterie producers usually work with Food Laboratories to test their products for safety.

To feel more informed about nitrates/nitrites and nitrosomines, there are a series of links below that can help you make decisions about the food you eat.

Our decision to not add nitrates in many of our products  came about for a number of reasons.

Firstly, year on year, a rising tide of consumers want “clean” label products indicating that foods are free of artificial additives and processing aids. The enjoyment of delicious charcuterie for many people comes from knowing where products are made, how they are made and a confidence that the ingredients included are there to naturally enhance the flavour of the meat, not mask it or adversely alter it’s qualities with lots of processing aids. Preserving meat, whilst technical and scientific, is also a traditional skill designed to capture the flavour of exceptional meat deploying minimal intervention.

Secondly, nitrate salts are industry standard and sometimes create a levelling effect when used in curing (i.e some products lose distinction in flavour). This is because nitrates arrest good as well as bad bacteria. Happily we’ve been able to overcome this issue by using a salt from Brittany which is not filtered, washed or re-crystallised, but naturally dehydrated in salt bays. It has a high potassium and magnesium content. These minerals are proven to be good for us and they help to develop flavour. This salt is used by artisan charcuterie manufacturers across France. Brittany is not local but other sea salts we tried did not perform as well based on quality and taste.

Thirdly, more and more reports from the WHO, the FSA link excessive nitrate and nitrite consumption to digestive disorders and bowl cancer, toxic reactions and intolerances to meats containing high levels of nitrates. The crux of the health argument rests largely on  toxic chemicals called nitrosamines. These are released when nitrate cured products are heated above a certain temperature. We can’t comment on this evidence in relation to whether these reports are universally true, but as a small artisan manufacturer, we do have to take these issues seriously and evaluate these opinions and evidence in relation to our products and how we want to make them. We want our customers to enjoy our charcuterie for both it’s flavour and the care taken in its manufacture.

Useful Links

In summary we see the benefits of nitrates in certain products but have also worked to discover ways to use  less of them and in most cases, none.